Herald-Leader Editorial

Ky. Senate candidates owe voters debates

July 18, 2014 

It's perfectly understandable, from a tactical perspective, why U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes are being very cagey about meeting in a moderated, face-to- face debate on neutral ground.

Why risk an unscripted confrontation when, with the money they've raised, they can produce thoroughly researched, finely crafted, carefully directed messages extolling their virtues and trashing their opponent?

Understandable but inexcusable.

Voters deserve to see these two formidable candidates answer unscripted questions, debate policy and challenge each other.

They have at least two opportunities to do just that.

Centre College, which has hosted two vice presidential debates, has invited Grimes and McConnell to meet there Sept. 3 in a forum co-hosted by AARP that would be moderated by two anchors from WAVE-TV in Louisville.

The League of Women Voters, which hosts dozens of debates in local races each year, has also invited the candidates to debate.

So far, neither Grimes nor McConnell has committed to either forum.

Grimes has accepted Kentucky Educational Television's invitation to participate in a candidate forum on Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Bill Goodman. McConnell has not.

McConnell has agreed to debate in theory but with many conditions: no audience, no questioners other than the candidates and finish before Labor Day, Sept. 1.

Without neutral questioners, the candidates will just be acting out versions of their tightly scripted media campaigns.

If they finish before Labor Day, voters would face another two months of relentless media messaging before the election to offset any unscripted impressions.

Relentless it will be.

Campaign finance reports this week revealed that McConnell and Grimes have already raised, collectively, more than $36 million.

Predictions are that total spending by candidates and outside groups may top $100 million, making this possibly the most expensive race ever for the U.S. Senate.

Money is important in politics, that's reality.

But the only way Grimes and McConnell can prove that it's not the only thing that's important is to accept the debates offered by Centre and the League.

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